Thursday, November 26, 2009

August Jacob Wise (1874-1946)

In this series of blogs, my wife and I will be discussing the life stories of our ancestors, the events that affected their lives and the way they affect us today. We will use a variety of sources available online as well as family stories that have been passed on down the generations.

Have you ever read the poem "The Dash" by Linda Ellis? If not, you should take a look at it before you continue reading this blog ( Just remember to come back here and read the blog afterward. For those of you who have read the poem, remember what it says as you read what I have written.

Many times when we start working on our genealogies we have only names and dates. We always want to know their birth date and death date, but there is much more to find. How many times have you seen people listed as follows: August Jacob Wise (1874-1946)? What does this tell us about this person?

Let’s look at his life a little more closely. Everything I have listed below came from records and documents I found on the internet. Records include 1880-1940 US Census, Ohio Death Certificate, Church Records, Newspaper Articles, Immigration Records, and other historical documents.

August Jacob Wise was born 19 June 1874 in Berlin, Shelby County, Ohio. He was baptized at St. Michael’s Catholic Church on 21 June 1874 with Jacob Gaier and Maria Pleimann as his sponsors. The priest at that time was Reverend Wilhelm P. Bigot. August was the son of  immigrants. His father, August D. Wise, immigrated from Holland and was the operator and manager of the local saw mill. His mother Theresia Terling was a native of Westphalia, Germany. August D. Wise had immigrated in 1854 at the age of 19, on the ship William Tapscott from LiverpoolEngland with his parents Justus and Margaretha Wilken Wyse and three sisters, Margaretha, Louisa, and Anna. 

August Jacob Wise’s parents were fairly old at the time he was born. His father was around 37 and his mother was about 35. August was the middle child of three children. A sister Ann was born in 1870 but appears to have died before the 1870 census. We have Ann's birth record but no other information on her. His sister Louisa was born two years after him in 1876. In 1880 he was attending school and living with his parents, sister, grandfather Justus and two teamsters from the saw mill that his family operated. There is a question about the number of children since the 1900 census lists Theresa as only having had two children, both of which were still alive.

In 1896 August Wise, along with several others including Frank Willman and Adolph Raterman, founded the St. Michael’s Commandary No. 300 of the Knights of St. John. He was a life long member of the post and was listed as an honored guest at the golden jubilee dinner that was held on 1 June 1946, just two months before he died. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus.

August had a close brush with death on 24 April 1897. He was in his horse drawn buggy about 1 mile north of Newport when it started to rain. He was making his way into a barn owned by the Barger family when a lightning bolt struck and killed his horse. He was not injured.

By 1900, the town had changed its name from Berlin to Ft. Loramie. August was 26 years old, living with his parents, and was listed as single. He had become the head sawyer at the mill by this time. His father, age 64 was still in charge of the company. In 1903 he married Catherine Reiss. August and Catherine grew up together in this small town. Catherine’s father, Joseph Reiss, became a fireman and engineer at the Wise Sawmill in the 1860s after his service in the Civil War ended. 

After their marriage in 1903, the family began to grow. They had a total of 7 children born between 1904 and 1919, 6 of which were girls. During his life August served four terms on the village board of education and was an active member of the community fire department. 

After the death of his father in 1902, August took over the operations of the Wise Sawmill and is listed as the proprietor of the mill in the 1910 US Census. In 1913, the saw mill is listed as being 36' x 116' and 22' x 80' with a 40' x 44' engine room. The mill specialized in custom sawing with as many as 80,000 handles being produced annually. By 1920, the Wise Sawmill is listed as one of the major manufacturers in the area. August managed the sawmill until 1942 when he retired at the age of 68.

According to the 1940 census, August was working 45 hours per week managing the saw mill. He was living with his wife Catherine, daughter Madge, and son-in-law Vernon Westerheide.

On 24 April 1946 August suffered a paralytic stroke which rendered him bedfast. I think this is an interesting date since he survived the lightning strike on 24 April 1897. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on 13 August 1946 and died at 11:45 PM on 18 August 1946 after four months confined to his bed. He was 72 years 1 month and 22 days old. At the time of death he suffered from arterial sclerosis and obesity. He was buried in the new St. Michael’s Cemetery on 22 August 1946. His wife is buried by his side.

This is a tribute to my great grandfather August Jacob Wise (1874-1946).

At this time of Thanksgiving, let us remember our ancestors for the people they were, not for the dates they lived. Let us see them in a more complete light as people, not just names. We are what we are due to the decisions they made. For better or for worse, they are all part of us and we are part of them. Take the time to talk to your families and learn something more about each of them as you gather around the dinner table this holiday season.

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